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(News Focus) Yoon's visit to UAE, Switzerland ends in economic deals

Politics 20:37 January 20, 2023

By Lee Haye-ah

ZURICH, Switzerland, Jan. 20 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk Yeol wrapped up what was billed as a "sales diplomacy" trip to the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland after bagging a US$30 billion investment pledge from the Middle Eastern nation.

The four-day state visit to the UAE was the first such visit by a South Korean leader since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1980, demonstrating the will of both sides to further strengthen their special strategic partnership.

From the escorting of Yoon's jet by UAE fighter planes to an official welcome ceremony at the presidential office in Abu Dhabi, the state visit was an elaborate affair from beginning to end.

President Yoon Suk Yeol (L) shakes hands with United Arab Emirates President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan during the opening ceremony of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre in the capital of the UAE on Jan. 16, 2023. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol (L) shakes hands with United Arab Emirates President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan during the opening ceremony of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre in the capital of the UAE on Jan. 16, 2023. (Yonhap)

The highlight was UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan's decision to invest $30 billion in South Korea, an amount Yoon's office said was unprecedentedly large for the Middle Eastern nation.

During the summit between Yoon and Mohamed, the two countries also signed 13 memorandums of understanding covering energy, arms, climate change and other sectors.

In total, South Korea and the UAE signed 48 MOUs during the state visit, aided in part by a high-profile business delegation that accompanied Yoon, including Samsung Electronics Executive Chairman Lee Jae-yong, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won and Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Euisun Chung.

While in Abu Dhabi, Yoon visited the Barakah nuclear power plant, South Korea's first overseas nuclear power plant project and a symbol of the two countries' cooperation, and called for additional joint nuclear power projects in the UAE and joint expansion overseas.

He also visited with South Korean troops of the Akh unit, which has been training UAE forces and protecting Korean nationals in the region in emergencies.

Yoon told the troops that the UAE's "enemy and biggest threat" is Iran, which prompted an angry response from Tehran and sent Seoul scrambling to defuse the tension.

South Korean officials insisted the president's remark had nothing to do with Seoul's relations with Tehran, but the controversy led both capitals to summon the other country's ambassador to clarify their positions.

From Abu Dhabi, Yoon made a brief stop in Dubai before flying to Zurich for another four-day visit that coincided with the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between South Korea and Switzerland.

Yoon attended the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos -- the first South Korean leader to attend the meeting since Park Geun-hye in 2014 -- and delivered a special address on the importance of strengthening supply chain resilience. He also reiterated his commitment to increasing the use of nuclear power to help meet carbon neutrality goals.

Other events in Davos included a luncheon with a group of CEOs from South Korean conglomerates and leading multinational companies, such as Intel, IBM, Qualcomm, JP Morgan Chase and Mubadala Investment Co.

Yoon pitched himself as "the No. 1 salesman of the Republic of Korea" and called on the CEOs to increase their investment in the country while letting him know of any shortcomings in its institutional systems.

"The South Korean market is open, and my office is open too, so please come find me at any time," he was quoted as saying.

President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 19, 2023. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 19, 2023. (Yonhap)

hague@yna.co.kr
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